Home » Blog » What is the Goal of Parvo Treatment With Antibiotics?

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that causes fever, diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia in dogs.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, however, antibiotics can be used to treat the symptoms and secondary infections that may occur as a result of Parvo.


What is the Goal of Treatment With Antibiotics?

The main goal of Parvo treatment is to restore the fluids that were lost due to diarrhea and vomiting, as well as to treat any secondary bacterial infections.  While IVs are used to treat dehydration and fluid loss, antibiotics can help a dog recover from symptoms such as diarrhea, inflammation, and bacterial infections.  During a Parvovirus infection, antibiotics are also often used to help protect the intestinal lining, as dogs are at a high risk of bad bacteria spreading across the thin tissues that line the intestines.

Common Prescription Antibiotics

During a case of Canine Parvovirus, a veterinarian will recommend an antibiotic to help with some of the resulting symptoms.  An antibiotic will require a prescription, and your vet will most likely prescribe one of the following:

  • Cefazolin– Cefazolin kills bacteria by damaging the way they form cell walls, making them unstable and more susceptible to antibodies.  This drug is primarily only given to pets with a serious infection during hospitalization while being overseen by a veterinarian.
  • Metronidazole– This drug is more commonly known by the brand name Flagyl, and it is primarily used as an anti-diarrheal and used to treat inflammation in the large intestine.  This antibiotic is also used for other conditions in dogs, as well as cats, horses, and even humans.
  • Cephalexin– This drug is also known as Biocef or Keflex, and it is used to treat bacterial infections in dogs and cats. Cephalexin is available in capsules or tablets, and it is most commonly prescribed for uncomplicated infections.
  • Ampicillin– This drug kills bacteria by preventing them from building a cell wall while they grow. Ampicillin stops the linking of peptidoglycan chains that are a major component in bacteria’s cell walls.
  • Gentamicin– Gentamicin kills off the infectious bacteria in the body.  This medication is applied topically only.
  • Trimethoprim-sulfa– This antibiotic is also known by the brand names Cotrim, Septra, and Tribrissen. This drug is able to penetrate into tissues that usually stop other antibiotics at their surface.  According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, “The sulfa drug inhibits the first enzyme and trimethoprim inhibits the second enzyme.”  The combination of these two drugs together is able to kill off bacteria, whereas the sulfa or trimethoprim by itself may not be strong enough to do so alone.


How To Administer Antibiotics To Your Dog

What is the goal of parvo treatment with antibiotics?Honestly, your dog will most likely not want to swallow an antibiotic.  Ask your veterinarian if your dog should be given the drug with food and water or without, and follow any specific instructions exactly.   If you are allowed to give the pill with food, try to encase the pill in wet dog food.  Create a ball of food, pop the pill in it, and feed one to your dog.  You may want to try to feed a ball of food without medicine first to encourage eating.  As an alternative, you can also buy treats online with pockets in them where you can hide a pill inside.

If you are instructed to administer the antibiotic without food, open your dog’s mouth and pace the pill as far as you can inside.  Close your dog’s mouth and wait for him or her to swallow.  You can try lightly blowing on your dog’s face and nose which can cause them to swallow.  Always praise your dog or give him or her a treat after taking their medicine!


How To Support Your Dog During and After Antibiotic Treatment

Unfortunately, antibiotics cannot determine “good” bacteria from the “bad” bacteria, and therefore they kill both harmful and helpful bacteria.  That being said, it is important to support your pet during the treatment process to ensure their health and happiness.

The first step is to support your dog’s appetite.  The antibiotics (on top of the disease) can cause a loss of appetite and a decreased interest in food.  Food is so important to recovery, as your pet needs the nutrients and sustenance to fight infection.  If your pet refuses to eat, do not force them, but continue offering a meal every few hours.  If they continue to refuse, try offering cooked chicken and rice or bone broth.

What is the goal of parvo treatment with antibiotics?The second thing you can do to support your dog is to add a probiotic to their food.  Since antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria, a probiotic will promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.  You can find many probiotics online or in your local pet store, just be sure to read the instructions for the right dosage based on your pet’s size.

Lastly, we suggest you give your dog space to heal and recover peacefully.  Your dog will not be feeling his or her best, so allow your pup to rest in a dark and quiet room in your house.  Provide your dog with comforting items such as a warm bed and cozy blankets, and give him or her water to stay hydrated.  Discourage children from trying to play with your dog until he or she has fully recovered, and try to limit the number of visitors.


Have any questions about Canine Parvovirus treatment?  Ask us!